Tamika Christie: Mama. Attorney. Creative Introvert.
Tamika Christie is the kind of person you can’t help but be in awe of. She’s kind, and funny, and thoughtful, and genuine. A talented writer, and someone who embodies the sort of values that make you want to be a better person.
I was first drawn to Tamika’s feed on Instagram because it’s full of light, wisdom and just the right dose of sass. What sealed the deal on my curiosity though was her profile description line: ‘Mama. Attorney. Creative Introvert.’
It wasn’t so much that she managed to encompass so much of who she is and what matters to her in such few words that got me. It was that last part: Creative Introvert. Now, that was something that rang true with me on the deepest level.
Fascinating that she’d self-identify that way, especially for someone whose Instagram presence is rich and strong. Tamika’s trade secret? Though she creates all her content for social media, she can’t bring herself to actually click the ‘post’ button, so she has someone to do that for her. And that’s where the Creative Introversion manifests. When I ask Tamika what all that means to her, she tells me that although she enjoys writing and sharing her work, she’s not a fan of sharing ‘too much of [herself] on a personal level’. ‘It’s the strangest combination’, she says, ‘because I enjoy meeting new people and learning all about them, but prefer to keep myself guarded. Pretty selfish, huh?’.
As a fellow introvert, I definitely don’t think it is. When Tamika goes on explaining that she loves her alone-time and needs a chance to recharge after social interactions before she can face any more, all I can think is that plenty of us in the writing community could probably relate. She wonders if it’s ‘a writer thing or a personality thing’ and it makes me think how great of a research topic it’d be to examine the crossover between creativity and degrees of introversion—but I digress, and that’s probably a topic for another time.
Let us backtrack a second, because before everything, Tamika’s a ‘mama’, and the most important thing in her life is her family. She admits that what she’s most afraid of is disappointing her children. When I ask how her family feels about her being a writer, she ‘thinks they like it’, and she loves that they’re proud and supportive. It makes me smile to hear that they also often want to know if and how they feature in her books, or they ‘lobby to be in [her] next book’!
Family dynamics is actually one of the big recurring themes in Tamika’s writing. Some of it is inspired by her own history. She has a large and diverse extended family, and she loves that ‘[her] family and friends have ALL the material [she] needs for juicy family dysfunction’.
In an interview I did with Tamika through The Indie Writers Collective, she added that writing about some ‘real-life family dynamics’ in her book helped her work her way through a lot of things. Not surprising, for someone who self-proclaimed to be a ‘chronic overthinker’, after I asked her about this (in my humble opinion) fantastic shirt she wears in one of her Instagram posts that reads: ‘Hold on. Let me overthink this’.
In fact, Tamika explains, working her way through things through writing is how it all started; when, as a little girl in elementary school, she received a journal as a present and started journaling. It was an experience she found very cathartic, and she confesses that her favourite thing about being a writer is that it’s her ‘therapy’. Talking about her own aversion for posting on social media, for instance, and needing someone to release her content for her, she adds that she hasn’t learned ‘to get out of [her] own way’, but that’s it’s a process, and it’s ‘an issue [she’ll] have one of [her] characters tackle one day’ so she can explore the topic and improve on that front herself.
Beyond using characterisation for her own therapeutic benefits, she simply loves ‘creating flawed characters; delving them into tense, chaotic situations and bring them out happy and renewed,’ she says, ‘It’s a fun but challenging process’—I’m sure a lot of writers reading this will be enthusiastically nodding their heads right now.
Speaking of which, I love the way Tamika describes her characters on her website: ‘My characters aren’t perfect. They make bad choices, but they manage to find their way back to positivity through self-love and family support’. Another recurring theme, not only in her writing, but her own life, too. ‘We are all flawed in various ways,’ she explains. ‘The beauty in those flaws is that we can all evolve and do better. That’s what life is about—right? Trying to improve and be a better person, mom, spouse, friend, etc.’. This, she continues, is the reason why she aims to make her characters relatable, to give her readers a chance to experience the same journey of personal growth.
That’s another interesting trend in her work, and something her website clearly states: ‘each story offers messages of hope, redemption, and love. I always offer messages of hope, so my readers feel complete when they finish my books’. Why is that so important to her, I ask, and what inspired it? Her answer: ‘What is life without hope? Look at the world around us. If we lead a life where there is no hope that things will get better, that would be awful’. And so she wants her books to carry the message that we ‘can forgive, and move on and be better people’. My guess is that this view of her fellow human beings is what inspired one of the important life lessons she’s learnt: ‘To take time for things that are important and to always be gracious. You never know what somebody is going through’. If you ask me, it doesn’t get much purer than that.
Diving into a different kind of intention, I can’t help but notice Tamika’s Instagram handle: @ourwritersmatter. I was curious as to whether that was an intentional reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and what message she looked to convey through it. ‘It’s funny you mention that’, Tamika comments, ‘The timing is synonymous, but as a Black woman writer my intent in creating that handle is that the work of any marginalized writer—Black, Women, Indie, or underrepresented in any way—matters’.
I imagine this is the same sentiment that fuelled her ‘grand plan’ to help fellow writers connect with the right audience—part of a ‘book feature opportunities’ service she offers, where she plays matchmaker between authors and readers, to help books get review exposure.
So, what else is next for her, I wonder? She’s been a little stuck, she admits, being deep into the final editing phase of her latest novel. This is often the case for her at this point in the process. ‘Pulling all the characters together, making everybody happy, mending relationships, answering questions; all of those final elements of writing make me feel stuck’. But when she’s done with that, she plans to query agents, something she admittedly says she’s ‘super excited and nervous’ about, because it isn’t something she’s done before.
All this, might I add, whilst juggling family life, a full-time job, trying to contribute to her community, and carving her own time to recharge and restore—and maybe get back into running. For her that’s the most challenging part of being a writer: ‘Finding time!’. One of the pieces of advice she gave during our interview on The Indie Writers Collective was for people not to feel bad about themselves if they’re not writing everyday. ‘Just keep going’ she said, at your own pace and the rest will follow. Take her own debut novel for instance, which started as a short story that she just kept writing until it turned into a fully-fledged book.
Back during that same interview, I asked Tamika if she had any final words of wisdom for anyone out there, and I loved her answer: ‘if you have a dream or a story that’s burning inside of you, please tell your story’. For Tamika, ‘we all have a different purpose’, and though not everyone will become a New York Times bestseller—some will, some won’t—we shouldn’t let that thought stop us. She said she’d give anyone the same sort of guidance she gives herself: ‘get over yourself. There are people who want to hear your story and read your work, and who will enjoy it. It will resonate with them and benefit them in some way’.
Her message is clear: never stop writing, but be kind to yourself in the process. Like she says in one of her Instagram posts—so beautifully I won’t even try to paraphrase it:
In case no one told you today, you rock.
It’s not easy creating interesting characters with compelling backstories and meaningful arcs. Then there are the plots you have to twist, scenes to set, antagonists to reckon with, and creating dialogue that bears repeating.
It’s a lot. Give yourself grace. If you write even a sentence of a book, you’ve won.’
Amen to that.
You can watch my interview with Tamika on The Indie Writers Collective here.